MBDA has provided further details about its trial activity involving dual-mode seeker-equipped Brimstone air-to-surface missiles and a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Reaper remotely piloted air system.
Concluding in January 2014 at the US Navy’s China Lake weapons range in California, the campaign involved nine live firings against moving ground vehicles, all of which resulted in “direct hits”, says MBDA. The firing envelope used included shots made from a distance of between 7-12km (3.8-6.5 nm) from an altitude of up to 20,000ft (6,100m), and against targets moving at up to 70mph (130km/h).
“Brimstone can now provide Reaper crews with a weapon that reduces collateral damage risk and demonstrates first-pass, single-shot lethality against high-speed manoeuvring targets on land at sea and in complex environments,” the company says.
The Reaper air vehicle was demonstrated carrying two three-round launchers for the Brimstone, with the trials also involving the Royal Air Force’s unmanned air systems test and evaluation squadron and the US Air Force’s Big Safari organisation.
Speaking in London on 20 March, MBDA UK managing director Steve Wadey said the company is waiting for a Ministry of Defence decision on whether to integrate Brimstone with the RAF’s Reapers for operational use, but added that the trial results were “pretty compelling”.
MBDA says its precision-strike weapon – including a developmental Brimstone 2 design offering extended-range performance – could also be launched by combat helicopters and multi-mission and maritime patrol aircraft.
Meanwhile, the company reveals that the RAF – which already uses the semi-active laser- and millimetre-wave radar-guided missile with its Panavia Tornado GR4 fleet – is trialling the weapon’s use against fast inshore attack craft.